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Russia drops charges against activists

Greenpeace says Russian investigators have dropped charges against all but one of the 30 activists who were detained following a protest outside an oil rig in the Arctic

Two Canadians are believed to be among those who've had their criminal cases closed under an amnesty that was passed by Russian parliament earlier this month.

The move has been seen by many as an attempt by the Kremlin to dampen criticism of Russia's human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Alexandre Paul of Montreal and Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont., were held in custody for two months along with their fellow activists before they were released in November pending trial.

They were originally charged with piracy, but that was then downgraded to hooliganism.

Greenpeace says the foreigners among those who've had their cases closed have already applied to the Russian authorities for exit visas to leave the country and expect to get them in the next few days.

A Greenpeace spokeswoman says only Cristian d'Alessandro of Italy failed to get his case closed due to the lack of an interpreter and will have to visit the St.Petersburg branch of Russia's Investigative Committee again on Thursday.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has questioned the Greenpeace protesters's intentions to protect the Arctic and alleged that they were trying to hurt Russia's economic interests.

He said earlier this month that he did not mind that charges against the Greenpeace team were dropped under the amnesty, but that he hoped that "this will not happen again."

The Canadian Press

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